After two years of laying the groundwork with coproducer Hongming Wang, Robert Vicencio, Filipino-Australian actor-producer, will mount “Ip Man the Musical.”
The musical comes on the heels of two popular movies on martial arts legend Ip Man, renowned as the mentor of Bruce Lee.
Vicencio acknowledged that the original “Ip Man” movie, starring Donnie Yen, sparked the world’s interest in the martial-arts master and his legacy.
“People wanted to know more about the teacher who inspired Bruce Lee. Ip Man, however, was more enigmatic compared to his famous student,” Vicencio told the Inquirer in an e-mail interview.
Vicencio and coproducer Wang kept the project under wraps for two years. “We wanted to make sure we had tied up all the loose ends before launching the musical.” (Premiere is set in Singapore in August 2014.)
Vicencio and Wang were able to sign up Ip Man’s son, Ip Ching, to join the venture. “Ching will help us delve deeper into Ip Man as a man, teacher and father. We are not adapting the movies… rather, we are creating our own production.”
This early, the producers have dubbed the show as an “epic mega-musical.”
Envisioned as a sung-through musical, “Ip Man” will be a cross between “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables,” Vicencio said.
Vicencio played Thuy in “Miss Saigon” for eight years and performed in 10 cities, including London, Singapore, Sydney and Hong Kong.
He shared the stage with Filipino singer-actress Lea Salonga in the farewell presentation of “Miss Saigon” on the West End in 1999. With cowriter Thomas Schönberg, Vicencio composed the song “Reach for the Stars,” which was recorded by another “Miss Saigon” graduate Joanna Ampil, as a fund-raising project for the Sun and Moon orphanage in Manila.
Auditions for “Ip Man the Musical” will be held all over Asia, including the Philippines, this year. The Manila tryouts are scheduled “in the third or fourth quarter of the year,” Vicencio reported.
Admittedly, the show has special casting requirements, as it involves some stunts and wire work. Thus, the producers are looking for singer-actors who are not afraid of heights.
“They should be actors-dancers who can do martial arts. We will soon launch an online TV show in China to facilitate our search for cast members there,” said Vicencio.
Filipinos are definitely on top of his list of prospective cast members. “Filipinos have a strong work ethic and ability to adapt and learn… traits we are looking for not only in the cast, but also in the creative and production teams.”
The Sydney-born Vicencio asserted, however, that “Ip Man” will not just highlight martial-arts skills and death-defying stunts. “It’s not a Shaolin show or Cirque du Soleil,” he said. “It will touch on universal themes and story lines and hopefully cross boundaries not only across Asia but all over the world.”
The book will be cowritten by British screenwriter Bey Logan, “the foremost expert in martial-arts movies in Asia,” Vicencio said.
“‘Ip Man 3D the Movie’ is currently in development and will begin production in the third quarter of the year,” he related. “Our creative team will write the new movie’s theme song and it will be featured in the musical, too.”